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Food from genetically engineered crops. Should we worry?. Maarten J. Chrispeels. Genetic change resulting from crop domestication took 10,000 years. Teosinte (top) and corn or maize (bottom). The March of Genetic Technology.
Maarten J. Chrispeels
Teosinte (top) and corn or maize (bottom)
1860 Mendel:making crosses, introducing genes1920 Discovery of hybrid vigor1950 Inducing mutations1960 Tissue culture and embryo rescue1980 Plant transformation and GMOs2000 Genomics
phenomenal population growth for the past 100 years.
Tons per hectare
The scientific basis of all crop improvement is the identification of the genes that encode certain phenotypic characteristics.Those genes can now be transferred more easily (via marker assisted breeding - no GM) or directly (through genetic engineering - GM)
Peas (on the left) that make a genetically engineered bean protein are insect-resistant and do not need to be sprayed with pesticides.
All of these concerns apply to food and agriculture in general
Promote the general welfare
Maintain people’s rights (individuals, groups, corporations)
Ensure justice: burdens and benefits must be fairly shared
Worldwide, 40 % of our food production depends on irrigation. Depletion of aquifers is occurring at twice the re-charge rate. Salinization is a major consequence of irrigation
Wild Progenitors and Relatives
GM Cotton with a Bacillus thuringiensis Cry gene is resistant
to Cotton Bollworm. Cry encodes an insecticidal protein
Insect Control Ledger for 2000: Bollgard® Cotton on Five Million Acres
Dr. Roger Leonard, LSU Agricultural Center Dr. Ronald Smith, Auburn University
Bollgard® is a registered trademark of Monsanto Company© 2001 Monsanto Company
Some GM crops have the potential to mitigate the environmental impact of agriculture: less pesticide, less dust, more biodegradable herbicides
“Roundup” tolerant soybeans can be
Planted with no-till procedures,
which eliminate plowing (dust),
Save water and use a biodegradable
Gene flow occurs when crops cross with wild relatives growing
in relative close proximity to the fields.
Gene flow requires sexual compatibility
Gene persistence requires an evolutionary advantage for the new trait
What are the main food issues in the US?The # 1 safety issue is bacteria (6000 deaths per yr.)The # 1 health issues are fat, sugar and salt
A GM soybean line, developed as a collaboration between the USDA and DuPont, is hypoallergenic in humans.
The approach is to down regulate the expression of the gene encoding the major allergenic protein (antisense)
There are no GM apples anywhere!
Is food labeled this way
Pesticides, twice a week Pesticide free
The US takes the view that if
foods are “substantially equivalent”,
the method of producing them
need not be on the label.
Farmers use a variety of techniques, and keeping production streams separate “from plow to plate” costs money. Such separation is called “identity preservation”. Who should pay for this?
Europe requires that all food that has any ingredient that is
more than 1% GM be labeled as “GM containing”.
GM foods are as safe and there is promise for more nutritious food.
For some crops, environmental impacts are similar or less than conventional agriculture.
GM is an important tool for the plant breeder
GM technology can solve problems that can’t be solved in other ways at present.
The benefits will be spread between biotech companies, farmers and consumers.
Through science and through ethics we have come to the realization that we are bound by the laws of Nature. We must obey those laws to make agriculture (and civilization) sustainable.
Our agricultural practices must reflect our new awareness that many practices threaten sustainability. Food production must be equitable and just, and sustainable, for all the peoples of the Earth.